Friday 27 September 2013

Oh Sang Eun Heads Seedings as Group Draws are Released

Korean International Oh Sang Eun is not the only Korean heading up the top spots in the individual group stages of the Open Men's Singles for the NZ Senior Table Tennis Championships. Jong Eub Han, sitting 3rd on the TTNZ rating lists, will be entering the draw in strong contention. The seasoned Korean ex-pat player already made his mark at this year's South Island Championships where he showed very few signs of slowing down in defeating Phillip Xiao in straight sets in the final. Mirek Janča slips in as the 5th seed for the event pushing John Cordue back to the top of the 6th group. 

Jong Eub Han on the left
Image from TTC
Men's Seeds

1. Oh Sangeun (Korea)
2. Teng Teng Liu (Auckland)
3. Jong Eub Han (Canterbury)
4. Phillip Xiao (Auckland)
5. Mirek Janča (Otago)
6. John Cordue (Auckland)
7. Ivo Mikulec (Canterbury)
8. Oliver Scarlett (Auckland)
9. Yi-Sien Lin (Canterbury)
10. Malcolm Darroch (Canterbury)

All in all for the men's draw it's a strong mix of Auckland and Canterbury heading the tops of the groups and it will certainly be entertaining to see if upsets occur, particularly for the 2nd qualification spot in each group.

In the women's draws Timea Tapai rests comfortably in the top spot, notably no Li Chunli entered in the event which clarifies that question for those asking. Jung Mi Kim sits in 3rd seed position but we will have to see if Vicky Yang is up to the defensive challenge should the seeds play out and perhaps we will have a repeat of 2002 and an expedite rule with 2 choppers in the final? Sophie Shu leads the 4th group and will face a strong challenge from Sara Hu. No doubt some very interesting groups in that event.

Women's Seeds

1. Timea Tapai (Canterbury)
2. Vicky Yang (Auckland)
3. Jung Mi Kim (Auckland)
4. Sophie Shu (Auckland)

The draws for the individuals can be found on Canterbury Table Tennis Association's website HERE and there you can also find the team draws under the tournament tab, for those who have been patiently waiting. 

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Get 3 Free Match Analysis Videos on TTEdge Now!

I just received a special referral code for all table tennis fans and MHTableTennis fans anywhere in the world. You can join TTEdge today and use my code MHTT as a referral code and receive 3 free match analysis videos. Remember registration on TTEdge is free and offers a number of features. There is an online video store full of instructional videos which unlike most subscription based sites, can be purchased individually at very low costs!

You can also register for upgraded memberships in stages which unlocks further more advanced and more in-depth features. William Henzell is a professional table tennis player with a wealth of knowledge and a reputation for his analytical abilities in matches. He pressed Vladimir Samsonov to the edge of the 7th set in last year's London Olympic Games after already defeating WR39 (at the time) Joao Monteiro. He is Oceania's most successful players, has gone through the pressure of league matches in the European system in Sweden and Austria, training in Europe and Australia, qualifying for Olympics, competing as an underdog and under pressure as a top seed. His experience is vast and he shares it all on TTEdge.

Make sure you check out the site today and use my referral code MHTT to choose 3 free match analysis videos!

Monday 23 September 2013

Team Lines Drawn for NZ Senior Champs 2013

The teams are ready to go for the NZ Senior Table Tennis Championships which are set to kick off on the 2nd October, just over a week away. The big teams will clash another year with Canterbury fielding strong teams and hoping to claim the top spot on home turf. With the experience of Jong Eub Han leading the top Christchurch team and a powerful combination of top players, Yi-Sien Lin and Malcolm Darroch, joined by Czech player Ivo Mikulec, it will likely be Canterbury presenting the biggest challenge to defending champions Auckland.

Auckland 1 team member John Cordue
Image courtesy of Murray Finch
With top NZ ranked Phillip Xiao absent from the Auckland 1 team it will be the task of 2 time National Champ Teng Teng Liu along with John Cordue, Josh Alexandre and Kevin Wu to put the pressure on the locals in order to retain their title. A fairly evenly balanced competition, it will be interesting to see how this competition goes down. Both regions also field strong second teams with Auckland 2 comprising of Zhiyang Cheng, Ollie Scarlett, Aaron Gong and Craig Dye while Canterbury's Stuart Armstrong, Simon Fenwick and Jonathan Wang are joined by Canterbury's second Czech player Pavel Daněk.

Otago will grace the A grade for the first time in some years with the usual strong contender Ben Duffy being joined by two international companions. Miroslav (Mirek) Janča and Jesper Villadsen join the Otago team from Czech Republic and Denmark respectively and add a wealth of playing experience and ability to the team. This presents a great challenge to the top teams and Otago will look to capitalise on the opportunities presented, joining Auckland 1, Canterbury 2 and North Harbour in the group round.

Victor Pollett in North Harbour Team
Image courtesy of Murray Finch
North Harbour fields the young combination of Victor Pollett and Bryn Lindsay, joined under the direction of 2005 NZ Champion Brad Chen. No doubt Brad will look to lead the team while Pollett and Lindsay look to capture some top level wins in a tough grade. 

Manawatu are fielding one of their strongest teams in many years. Typically the team lead by Matthew Ball and Tim Seaholme has fielded a slightly weaker 3rd player and forced Manawatu into grading in many occasions. In 2013 the two regulars are joined by Wellington Open champion Lei (Jerry) Zhang and Mike Tate-Davis, a team with plenty of potential to cause some upsets. They join Canterbury 1 and Auckland 2 in their group along with the winner of a very tight grading match.

Grading will see just 2 teams clash for the 8th spot in the draw of fairly even callibre and no real way of knowing who may advance. Mentality, determination and drive will be big factors on the day as Wellington and Waikato go head to head in a battle of nerve. Wellington led by Ben Collins with Paul Brown, Depak Patel and Paul Solt in support while Waikato's Matt Hetherington is joined by young World Hopes Team member Yanglun Zhao along with Paul Whitehead and Daniel Delbourgo. The match is sure to be entertaining as both teams put it all on the line to try and make the top grade.

Timea Tapai leads Canterbury Team
Image courtesy of Murray Finch
The Women's Team event will see the return of two former Auckland team players in Korean defensive player Jung Mi Kim and short pips attacker Sophie Shu. Joined by former NZ champ Vicky Yang and the highly rated Sara Hu, the team is surely a force to be reckoned with. Canterbury's hopes are lead by reigning national champion Timea Tapai joined by the younger Angel Huang and Mariam Seif along with Mimi Walle, the Canterbury players will surely look to press the home side advantage, with Timi driving the team it will be up to Angel, Mariam and Mimi to provide a strong support to bring home the wins for the local team. 

Manawatu are lead by the strong combination of Natalie Paterson and Catherine Zhou, both top ranked players and supported with draft player Taylor Nesbitt. Paterson will no doubt be looking to continue improving on a strong year after appearing in the North Island Championships final, by fighting for more top level wins against the strong opposition.

Waikato's Armindeep Singh and Jessica Macaskill are accompanied by Barbara Perry and again, the pair who have consistently been ranked in the top 10 women in the country will be fighting to seal some victories for the Waikato team.

Otago's team will be graced by two time NZ Open Champion and TTNZ Hall of Fame member, Yvonne Fogarty. The veteran player has come back to table tennis and will no doubt be full of inspiring stories for her teammates, Emma Paton and Debra King. Fogarty part of a long running family line of table tennis players was a bronze medallist at the 1973 Commonwealth Championships and was a strong international representative for New Zealand during her peak.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Korean Powerhouse set to Make Lasting Impressions

So the entry is finally confirmed, retired Korean National Team member Oh Sang Eun is set to top the seedings at this year's New Zealand Senior Table Tennis Championships in Christchurch, providing a spectacle not often seen in this quiet corner of the world. Oh Sang Eun an outstanding 1.88 metres and internationally renowned for his incredible countering game close to the table was a member of the Korean National Team for 20 years and peaked at an ITTF World Ranking of 5th. While Oh Sang Eun never won a major international event, he featured in the Beijing quarterfinals 2008, the 2005 WTTC semifinals and was 4th at the 2009 World Cup, on top of this he won 7 ITTF Pro Tour Events between 2005 and 2012.

Oh Sang Eun
Image Courtesy of ITTF
While still remaining in the top 50 players in the world (currently early 30s), Oh also plays in the Polish League. Earlier in the year he was victorious at the Australian Senior Open Championships and now the test is upon New Zealand to see if there are any with the skill and determination to challenge this world class player. Oh will combine in the men's doubles with NZ Ranked 1, Phillip Xiao and in the mixed doubles it will be up to Angel Huang from Canterbury to see if she can keep up with the stalwart and head for gold.

An exciting opportunity to see a true world class player and also an immense challenge to see if any can stop him from clinching gold. The hot contenders will be Teng Teng Liu, the defending champion, Phillip Xiao, a national finalist and North Island Champion and other top players in the top 10 the likes of Yi-Sien Lin and John Cordue. Some new fresh contenders will make the field more interesting also, 3 players from the Czech Republic who made a big impression at the South Island Championships this year will compete in the teams and individuals, while Otago also hosts a talented Danish player.

More news to come as we gear up for the big event and team draws and seeds are announced, sit tight!

Watch Oh Sang Eun decimate Wang Hao 4-0 in 2008

Friday 13 September 2013

Ping Pong Runway #3: The Dodean Sisters

It's true, sisters have a strong image in any sport and in table tennis it's no different. The Dodean sisters, Daniela and Andreea from Romania are part of a family of table tennis, with 2 brothers in the sport also. While Daniela is most notable for her international performances, having been ranked 19th in the world in 2010 and playing in the Italian and Austrian league's top divisions, sister Andreea was also a strong contender in the 2nd league in Germany. I had the unique chance to ask them both a little bit about the image of women's table tennis!

Andreea (left) and Daniela (right) Dodean
Daniela left home at the age of 10 and began training at the Olympic Centre, she has come a long way since then and recently married Portugese National Team member Joao Monteiro. Daniela is based at the Schlager Academy in Schwechat, Austria where she competes for SVS Strock. Sponsored by Butterfly since just 13 years of age, the 25 year old is still one of Europe's hot contenders in any competition.

Butterfly Sponsored Daniela Dodean
Image Courtesy of ITTF
So down to business. The sisters were unanimous, as with most females in the sport today that skirts are definitely the future of women's table tennis. Andreea said they were more comfortable and prettier, while Daniela said she definitely preferred to wear a skirt. Andreea said perhaps given time she could also wear a dress while playing but for now the skirt was definitely more comfortable to play in.

The sisters both agree that image is important for the growth of the sport. "People are coming to watch table tennis will enjoy seeing nice looking girls also" Daniela says, while she also emphasises that it's important for the male players to look presentable too for spectators and TV.

Romstal Romania Calendar
Daniela was approached via the ITTF earlier this year by Maxim, an international magazine for men where she featured in a brief interview. She is also involved in the Romstal Calendar shoot, the national sponsor of the Romanian team produce a calendar once a year to help raise funds for the athletes. Above is this year's calendar whilst Daniela features in a more classy look in the previous calendar.

Daniela on the right in the Romstal Calendar
Growing up with a family of table tennis players is obviously something very special though Daniela admits that it was hard as both herself and brother Adrian trained in the centres from a young age, she was clearly grateful to have him there though to look after her. Now Daniela enters a new phase of her life with her new husband, of course I wish them the best of happiness they are both amazing players and wonderful people. You can see my interview with Joao on my blog also :)

Andreea at the Romanian National Championships
So as we conclude another chapter in the mini series of Ping Pong Runway, it is becoming clear that there is a strong belief that the image of women's table tennis is crucial for the sport's growth and that skirts are the way to go! Thank you so much to Daniela and Andreea for helping coordinate with me to do this it was my pleasure.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Ping Pong Runway #2: Margarita Pesotska

So after a great first part with Bernadette Szocs from Romania I decided to continue in this mini series of exploring the image of female table tennis players and went to catch up with my good friend Margarita Pesotska from Ukraine. Margarita was a bronze medallist at the 2011 European Championships and like Szocs was twice the European Youth Champion and once European Cadet Champion.

Margarita Pesotska Photoshoot
So I spoke with Margarita a little about the image of women's table tennis. Like most female players she is a believer in female's looking good not just in table tennis but in life also and that table tennis is a beautiful game so why shouldn't it have beautiful players! The young player from Ukraine currently plays in the Polish league and is sponsored by Tibhar.

Margarita Pesotska
While Pesotska agrees that skirts are more feminine and are better than shorts, she is not so sure about the comfort and convenience of dresses in our fast paced sport and admits it's more unusual to see table tennis players in dresses.

Pesotska in Action

Margarita has regularly frequented the top 50 women's rankings on the ITTF list over the past few years and is one of Europe's stronger players with a two winged attacking game. She has a great fighting spirit and never gives up in a match!

Margarita Pesotska Swimming

Pesotska has done a couple of photoshoots, she certainly knows how to look great both on and off the table. She isn't just a pretty face and a great table tennis player though, the young athlete also holds 2 degrees in Sport and Literature and is currently completing a Masters degree, her 5th year of University study.

Margarita Pesotska Serves
So make sure you keep an eye out for this big contender at the European Championships as she aims to repeat her medal winning performance of 2011. Thank you Margarita and good luck! :D

Sunday 8 September 2013

Ping Pong Runway #1: Bernadette Szocs

While many individuals complain that table tennis is not tailored to spectators and that female players should make more of an effort to improve the image of the sport, I thought I would take an opportunity to speak to some players and see what they thought and to show you all that there are certainly players out there making an effort to look great both on and off the table. The first person I wanted to speak to was Bernadette Szocs from Romania, a name which many of you will know of course!

Bernadette Szocs sponsored by Tibhar
Image Courtesy of Tibhar

The Tibhar sponsored player, just 18 years old is one of Europe's most successful young players of this generation having won the European Cadet Challenge in 2010 and the European Youth Championships the two years following. While Bernadette states that she's not too worried how she looks out on the table, she admits she prefers to look good and she thinks that perhaps for the supporters there is some importance in our female players looking attractive. We decided to go through and pick a few of her favourite photos for this post.

Bernadette Szocs
Photo Courtesy of Tibhar
We have seen Bernadette appearing in various photoshoots over the years and she has certainly created an image for herself. With strong contrast her gentle and young appearance leaves us wide open for surprise to see her fiery competitive nature out on the table and of course her unforgettable moments of celebration. The young Romanian currently resides in Bremen, Germany where she trains along with brother Hunor Szocs though she represents Lille in the French League for her competitive matches.

Sophisticated Look: Bernadette Szocs
As we see more photoshoots from Bernie she is developing quite a style both on and off the table with some more sophisticated shots like the one above. We decided this was one of the best photos. Szocs admits that a lot of people have prompted her to pursue modelling but it seems she is still very much hungry for table tennis still and thinks that she isn't tall enough to be a model in this era of the business. One thing is for sure, over the last few years we have seen her photo albums develop from juvenile table tennis photo snaps to more sophisticated styles, looks and locations with more ideas behind each photo.

Professional Look: Bernadette Szocs
So as time passes on no doubt we will see more photoshoot material from Bernadette, she is certainly crossing the line to some degree into the world of modelling and creates a great image for her fans and for the sport. Her focus now is on the European Championships, I'm sure I will have more questions for her again very soon. Thank you again Bernie!

Bernadette Szocs

Monday 2 September 2013

The Inside on SPiN New York

As some of you may know I recently had the opportunity to visit SPiN New York, a place I have always wanted to visit since it opened and the franchise began. Well, I went to SPiN and was lucky enough to meet all 3 of the co-owners while I was there. In the good company of the club host, Wally Green, I headed down on a Friday night with some other members of the World Hopes Team contingent. The kids were in good hands playing the league night at the table tennis club so we had the opportunity to check out this great venue.

The Holy Grail of Modern Table Tennis
SPiN New York

So I entered the club and it really is quite surreal, it takes a while to adjust to the buzz and atmosphere of a nightclub combined with table tennis. The place looks great, there are plenty of tables and plenty of players to use them! I was entered in the Dirty Dozen which is a 2 man team competition which offers $500USD in prize money, my partner Daniel was a great dude and really helped my confidence as I struggled to adjust to the unique conditions! The music was great, the DJ in house was actually Susan Sarandon's son too!

Once my head got over the unfamiliar lighting and pumping music I was ready to go. I also had the pleasure of meeting another one of my famed interviewees, the youngest US National Champion Michael Landers who won the prestigious title at 15 years old. A very down to earth young man and really cool to watch him play at SPiN. Me and my handy teammate Daniel were lucky enough to make the finals and pick up a slick $100US between us, a little bit more and $400 would have been ours (next time I think).

SPiN NY Host Wally Green
Of course the question on all of your minds, yes I had the fantastic opportunity to meet Hollywood actress and co-owner, Susan Sarandon. She was very approachable and I had the opportunity to sit and speak with her for a while. It's clear that she is a big fan of table tennis and was quite content to sit and watch the games unfolding as the night went on. It was a great pleasure to meet her and hopefully I may have the chance again in the future. I also caught up with Franck Raharinosy and Jonathan Bricklin the other two co-owners and it was great to see Franck out competing in the Dirty Dozen and playing some pretty fly shots too.

Stiga Tables at SPiN New York
So I would recommend to you all that if you are in the neighbourhood of SPiN New York or any other SPiN club around the US (or in Dubai), that you go at least once! Once you have experienced the vibe I'm sure you will be tempted to return again, just as I plan to! Thanks to Wally Green for organising a great night for us and for being a super host.

Me (Matt Hetherington) and Susan Sarandon at SPiN New York